Teaching Profession Opinion

Maryland Moves to Incorporate Student Performance into Teacher Evaluations

By Justin Baeder — June 24, 2011 1 min read
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According to the Baltimore Sun, Maryland will implement new teacher evaluation systems in 8 jurisdictions. Like all states that made successful bids for Race to the Top funds, Maryland is requiring that student performance measures constitute 50% of teacher evaluations. As I’ve made clear previously, I’m not a fan of this approach. However, the fact that Maryland appears to have provided flexibility for districts to define exactly what this means—including multiple data sources—is relatively encouraging.

The Sun points out that nearly 75% of teachers teach in subjects that are not covered by state tests, so hitting the 50% target will require other sources of data. While the article doesn’t go into much depth on how exactly this will work, I’m thrilled to see mentions of actual student work:

30 percent will be determined by the state and and must include assessments such as the state test. However the state test may be only one of three assessments of student progress. The others will be chosen at least next year by the district from a long list, including unit tests called benchmarks, portfolios that include samples of student work and other factors. The last 20 percent of the evaluation will be chosen by the school district and will be assessments of student work as well.

When teachers have multiple opportunities to demonstrate that their students are learning, and when the data sources more closely match the taught curriculum, I think we’re moving in the right direction. Standardized tests are less than ideal because they create incentives to bend lessons away from adopted curriculum and toward the narrow, implied curriculum created unintentionally by the test.

It’s not clear whether the tests can include growth measures or will be absolute measures; it appears that many details will need to be worked out at the local level. One teacher who wrote to the Sun implies that absolute measures may be used, which could incentivize teachers to avoid working with struggling students.

What do you think of Maryland’s plan to overhaul teacher evaluation?

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